Ooh, that Rackin’ Frackin’….

The radio conversation this morning centered on a controversy brewing in New York/New Jersey over toll collectors.  And it was an interesting enough topic that I just might discuss it in another post.  But not today.  Today, that conversation is simply a jumping-off point for the actual issue at hand…

Foul Language.

In recent months, there has been a lot made of foul language.  Much of it has come out of the White House, but not all of it.  We recently discussed the Rahm Emmanuel controversy over the “R-word”.  A couple of years ago, Michael Richards (“Kramer” of “Seinfeld” fame) nearly lost his career because he screamed the “N-word” at a heckler.  And in this morning’s radio conversation, a toll collector angrily called a driver the “N-word”.

In all three of these situations – Mr. Emmanuel, Mr. Richards, and the toll collector – the offending word was accompanied by another offensive word that begins with F, which is used ubiquitously in our society.  It’s a versatile little word. It can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb… pretty much anything it wants.  It’s that flexible.  But it’s also considered an obscenity.  Decent people – or people who consider themselves “decent” – don’t use it in mixed company.  Or they didn’t used to.  Sadly, I hear it more and more frequently.

But in all three situations, the word we became angry over was not the generally-accepted “obscene” word beginning with F.  It was the Other Word.  The “R-word”, the “N-word”.

And the interesting thing is, had ANY other word been inserted where those “forbidden” words were, nobody would blink an eye.  The “j-word”, formerly used to describe a donkey.  The “a-word”, which is a vulgar description of a piece of anatomy.  The “p-word”, another vulgar word to describe a part of the female anatomy, or the “d-word” to describe a similar part of the male anatomy.  NONE of these would have received the blink of an eye, even though it could be argued that each and every one of these, possibly with the exception of the “j-word”, is a far worse and personal insult than “R” or “N”.  Especially when accompanied with the “F-word”.

Have I lost you yet?

Here’s the question:  Why is “The F-Word” so acceptable, but the “R-word” is not?  Why are we so horrified when one person calls another the “N-word”, when any other – arguably worse –  insult would be laughed off?  And why is nobody dragging Chris Rock off to Rehab for doing exactly the same thing that Michael Richards did? (you don’t have to answer that one.  Sadly, I am acutely aware of the answer.)

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28 Responses to Ooh, that Rackin’ Frackin’….

  1. LVISS says:


  2. Ellen says:

    I am totally lost in this conversation, I know the “F” and the “N” word, but the other ones….I have no idea..sorry..Have to learn a lot, I think.

  3. SKL says:

    I think that in this day and age, the N-word is usually intended to be offensive. I really don’t think that was always the case, at least not to the extent that it is now. (I mean, read Huckleberry Finn.) But today, using N- in front of anyone, about anyone, is unquestionably derogatory. I don’t think it’s necessarily as bad as “they” make it out to be – I mean, it is probably more ignorance than hate most of the time – but it’s really not necessary to use that word, regardless.

    But on the other hand, it bugs me that we can’t even say the word when we’re talking about it in an intellectual sense, you know? And even worse, if you have an African-American heritage, you can say N-, N-, N- all day long. That’s totally unfair. Either the word means “all blacks are scum” or it doesn’t, right?

    I recall, probably about 20 years ago, when someone wanted to outlaw or severely punish the use of N-. Now, I never, ever used that word in a derogatory sense in my entire life. But that day, I was so angry, because in the USA, freedom of speech is supposed to be important. I mean, when it comes to computer-generated kiddy porn, the media is all about protecting “speech,” but when it comes to N-, no way. I got so angry, I stood there in my living room yelling “nigger, nigger, nigger!” Not at anyone, but just to express, I’ll say what I want to say. I still would never say it around anyone that could possibly find it hurtful (or be influenced to disrespect blacks). But that’s because I’m not that kind of person. I don’t go around calling people fatass or kike either.

    As far as the R-word, I really think that’s a matter of ignorance. The N-word used to be bandied around a lot more than the R-word ever was, I’m pretty sure, but now that we are a sensitive society, the parents of slow learners want people to be aware that what they are saying is also hurtful to them or their kids. I really don’t have a problem with that. I never liked the word “spic,” but now that I have Hispanic-looking daughters, I might be even more sensitive to that. If my kid is ADD, I don’t find it funny when people joke about someone having ADD based on the fact that he’s an asshole. I mean, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s more a matter of: is it really necessary to say something ignorant that can be hurtful? Can’t people use their intelligence to think of some more targeted insult, or default to generic ones like “dumbass”? I have caught myself using “retarded” inappropriately a few times since Palin called Emanuel out on it (without the F- prefix), but at least I noticed it and am probably going to do this less and less until the habit is broken. I don’t think “Retarded” is that awful of a thing to say, but it’s insensitive once we know it can be hurtful.

    As far as the F-word goes, I just think that shows a complete lack of class when used in most contexts. It’s really nothing to be “offended” by since it says much more about the speaker than whoever he is talking about. I dated a guy who had lived in NY before that, and he used F- more than anyone I ever knew, so I figured they use it more in some places (aside from the fact that he was a jerk). One wonders why politicians are so frequently caught speaking crudely, but then again, maybe it only seems that way because we only hear about the bad stuff.

  4. shane says:

    What I really don’t understand is- why is it o.k. for black people to use the word nigger? They use it constantly to eachother “at least where I live” But when a white person calls a black person a nigger it’s world war III. I could care less if a black person called me cracker. As far as the “F” word goes I think it’s used more by people lacking intelligence, arrogance also plays a part. In the future there probably won’t be any un-acceptable words. They can say words on tv now that would never be allowed even 20 years ago. Like bitch, and ass.

  5. mssc54 says:

    “Why is “The F-Word” so acceptable, but the “R-word” is not?”

    There is a reason some language is commonly known (accepted) as “offensive language.” It’s offensive.

    As you know words, gestures, etc. are merely a means to communicate a message we are trying to get across. It is my beliefe that if an individual is “losing” an arguement or can not convey their message properly they will resort to using “offensive language.”

    I don’t think the “F” word is acceptable at all. I give you my post on that exact subject.


    • Joy says:

      I’m going to leave your link in but I think it’s a different subject all together. I’ll say the same thing here that I said to you. You were reading a Facebook page and were almost like “eavesdropping” on a bunch of women who were friends of friends and then you wrote a post about them and they found it and all hell broke loose. You didn’t even know them. These people are in the public eye. I think it’s very different and you and I will need to agree to disagree on this one.

      • SKL says:

        Curiosity was killing me so I had to click on MSSC’s link. It really surprised me to see a man, however religious and conservative he feels he is, imply that F- is more offensive when spoken by a woman than when spoken by a man. In this day and age.

        Now, I’m not one to say all the societal changes in the past 50 years or so have been for the better. But to me, “F-” sounds exactly the same whether it’s spoken by a woman or a man. Sometimes crude, sometimes just a choice of punctuation. It just depends on the context / who is listening. I just said the word less than an hour ago. I was outraged that a man died after 30 hours of calls to 911 because 3 or 4 different teams of ambulance drivers refused to walk 1/4 mile or less to get to the man’s house (in the snow). Yes, I used the word “F-ing” as an adjective to describe someone or something. My only audience was my business partner who has been my friend for 20 years. I suppose I now cannot call myself a woman. (I never was a “lady,” since that is a British title.)

        As my mother would say, “F- that.”

    • Laura says:

      Mssc… interesting conversation on your site, but that’s not really what I was getting at.

      I simply wanted to know why certain words are acceptable and used every day, and other words are not.

      One of the posters, maybe Nikki? Probably hit it on the head when she said it was a difference between simply cursing, and calling someone a name.

      Your post was about the act of cursing, and whether it should be acceptable at all… from a woman.

  6. Nikki says:

    I think because the “F” word is not a name. Well I guess it could be. It really only fuels the actual name you are calling a person. I say the “F” word occasionally. Usually when I’m frustrated or just mad, it’s a reaction word for me. I don’t use it in a normal conversation…normally! It also depends on who I am talking to.
    The “N” or “R” words are direct insults. So is the “A” word, along with the “J” word….name calling in general is immature but it happens. Some are worse than others.
    Although I think it is wrong to offensively name call I don’t think it’s wrong if you let the “F” bomb slip out.
    Be respectful to the people you are around. If I am in front of my grandma or any kids, I wouldn’t speak like that. If I am with my friends or husband I’ll speak anyway I want to.
    People in a public forum should probably watch what they say. People will judge you on those words.

  7. Joy says:

    I have to say I pretty much agree with Nikki. I feel that’s it’s “how” you say something as to whether or not it’s offensive. I also feel different words evoke different feelings in us. For example, we couldn’t say “nigger” when we were young in our home. We would have gotten our mouth washed out with soap but we did say “mentally retarded” because “mentally handicapped” or “mentally impaired” hadn’t been invented yet. I have said to myself on many occasions, HOME ALONE, TO MYSELF, “what’s the matter with you Joy? Are you retarded?” It’s just a word that “unless” you were name calling, it’s just how you referred to them. Nobody said Down’s Syndrome in the 60’s and 70’s to my knowledge.

    This part I agree with Shane. Black people call each other niggers all the time and that’s okay unless you’re white. I don’t get that part. I don’t use this word just because I never could, but how come African American’s do and how can they get mad when white people do? That’s the part that irritates me. Laura is right, Chris Rock says it all the time and so do may others but boy, not one of the got the treatment that Michael Richards did. That’s a double standard and one that bothers me because so many “turf” wars start with the language and escalate.

    Now the “f” bomb. Yes, I’ve said it but I would never say it in front of small children or out in public. It’s a grown up word that I say if I’m here alone and stub my toe running for the phone. If I’m home alone and say it, did I really say it??

    Bottom line for me is unless you call someone a bad name, meaning to hurt them or you curse because you hurt yourself or you’re playing cards on a Saturday night with friends, they don’t even compare to being the same thing. I take more offense when they talk about erections on TV and I’m sitting with my grandchildren praying they don’t ask me what is an erection and why shouldn’t you have one for more than 4 hours.

  8. kweenmama says:

    I think it all boils down to respect. Generally, you know what the people you are around would consider offensive. If you respect them, you won’t use that language around them.

  9. SKL says:

    I should say I love Chris Rock. I love that he is not afraid to say what he sees – in a sense he is colorblind in a way few people, white, black, or otherwise, know how to be.

    Not crazy about his language (especially the F word, which seems to be required if you’re a comedian), but until every black person has stopped calling other blacks “nigger,” Chris Rock has every right to have fun with that reality.

    • Laura says:

      I don’t condemn Chris Rock for saying it (aside from the fact that I’m just not a fan). What I condemn is the hypocrites who would destroy Michael Richards’ career while pouring money into Chris Rock’s bank account, when, in effect, they do and say the same thing.

      • SKL says:

        I condemn any of these people telling anyone else what they can and cannot say. Let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone.

      • Joy says:

        I think Chris Rock is okay too. It just seems very hypocritical of him to say it and then condemn someone (white) for saying it.

        Just how does someone like Chris Rock get to the point that he can go on Oprah and say “nigger” and the F word? Of course it was bleeped out. That was when he was promoting that “black hair” movie Good Hair on her show and she didn’t bat an eye.

        • SKL says:

          Did Chris Rock say nobody is allowed to say “nigger”? Or that some people are not allowed to say it, but he is? I hadn’t heard that.

          • Joy says:

            He didn’t come right out and say that but he gave the impression very clearly. They were talking about “black” hair and how whites can’t understand “things.”

            • SKL says:

              Oh well, that’s a bummer, but I still love listening to his work. And people have certainly criticized him for saying “nigger” in his routine. Did you ever hear the one where he talks about the difference between black people and “niggers”? I mean, if we can get past the “PC,” people of all colors probably nod their heads at that one. What CR was saying was that black people’s worst enemies are irresponsible black people. You can feel the frustration caused by those who inspire the still-popular stereotypes of black people. This is what blacks themselves are not “allowed” to say. Bill Cosby is constantly attacked for suggesting a lot of black people need to shape up. The only time blacks are allowed to say stuff like that is when it’s part of a speech about gaining power to put whitey in his place. So even blacks are subject to this PC stuff – but yet, they can still say “nigger,” as long as they identify enough with the “hood.”

  10. avomnia says:

    I think we all need to f****ng lighen up! :^)

    This is what political correctness gets ya. As I’ve said on my blog, there’s a huge difference between being PC and simply being courteous or respectful. I have no problem calling a jackass a jackass. If someone is profoundly stupid, they’re (however indelicately) an f’n moron.

    When I get up in the morning I put on my big people pants and approach the day knowing that I need to be both responsible and respectable, if that’s how I want to be treated. I also need to accept accountability for my own actions and words.

    But we’ve allowed oursevles and each other to make it easy to point fingers at the other person. What part of ‘self-government’ did we forget?

    • As a quick aside, in light of SKL’s comment . . .

      It may be noted that I haven’t even a bad to carry stones in. So I won’t be casting any.

      “Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn’t any. But this wrongs the jackass.” – Mark Twain

      Nuff said?

  11. javajunkee says:

    sorry…I love the “f” word ..it’s fun to type and if used correctly in almost any sentence can really add some depth to it.
    I have to admit there was a period of time in my life where I didn’t talk like that…and it’s not that I feel better talking while inserting f bombs left and right …it’s just that sometimes a sentence just needs one.
    NOW that being said..I also try to be aware of who I am talking to. You can usually tell who is going to be offended by a certain kind of talk and I don’t have a problem altering my speech to go along with whoever I am talking to. AKA my 87 year old mother who would not have a problem washing my mouth out with soap. I’ve even tried to sneak an occasional friggin or freakin past here and still get “the look” and /or “do you want your mouth washed out?” 🙂

  12. javajunkee says:

    ps that whole thing about something being more vulgar being said by a man than a woman..that’s bogus effin bullcrap. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

  13. javajunkee says:

    reverse that…I think he said it was more vulgar said by a woman…sorry my bad!

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